Hurt feelings are bound to linger for a while in light of what transpired in the Class 2A state boys’ soccer finals Saturday in Sumner.
Cheney High School, a hard-luck runner-up four times over the past five 2A tournaments, finally brought home the championship hardware with a 2-1 overtime victory over Tyee High School at Sunset Chev Stadium.
Ian Scimandle maneuvered through the Tyee defense in overtime to score the game-winning goal. It was the Blackhawks’ first state title in soccer.
* The Spokesman-Review game story is here.
* The Seattle Times game story is here.
* The News Tribune game story is here.
The point of debate occurred in the 30th minute, or late in the first half. That is when Tyee gained possession of the ball as Cheney’s Oliver Smith went to the ground, injured.
Customary in soccer is that when an opposing player is hurt, instead of a team trying to move the ball up and attack with a player advantage, it simply kicks the ball out of bounds to stop play so the player can be tended to – which Tyee did.
Reciprocating, once the player’s injury is handled, his or her team either throws the ball in (if it is close to the opposing goalkeeper) or kicks it down the field to the opposing goalkeeper so play can restart with the rightful team in possession of the ball.
Nowhere is this custom written in any rule book, coaches say.
“But it is seen as honorable,” said Randy Hanson, women’s soccer coach at the University of Puget Sound.
A few Cheney players appeared to know the “unwritten rule,” because after a Blackhawks’ throw-in when play resumed, Cheney defender Andrew Horton booted the ball down the field from near his own goal to where Tyee goalkeeper Alan Mora was waiting to collect it, and send it out to teammates.
About that time, Cheney forward Micah Weller came running up, and decided to make a play on the soccer ball. According to game reports, Weller’s teammates shouted not to touch the ball – to no avail. Weller took possession and beat Mora on a 15-yard shot for the Blackhawks’ first goal.
The match was tied 1-1 heading into halftime – one that saw Tyee lodge an immediate protest with tournament officials. The protest was denied. No rule was violated.
To hear both sides talk about the incident days later, confusion reigned. The Tyee folks see this as a clear violation of sportsmanship, and harbor high-charged frustration over the matter. The Cheney folks claim because other in-game variables were occurring at the same time – for example, sideline substitutions – Weller was correct in making a play on a live ball.
Pertinent questions bounce around my mind in this instance: Did Weller – or more importantly should Weller have known the unwritten rule? Was the custom blatantly ignored or disobeyed? Would it have helped if the game referee, or assistant referee (linesman) intervened (or are they even allowed to)? And should have anybody stopped playing on a live ball?
Here is what Terri McMahan, the Highline School District athletic director, had to say Tuesday about the ever-questioned sequence.
“(The play) is not illegal. But it wasn’t sportsmanlike. And you would hope those types of sportsmanlike behaviors would be reciprocated. It was pretty clear we were on our heels, waiting for officials to respond appropriately.
“I would have hoped the official would have held things up.”
Jim Missel, the Cheney High athletic director, did answer his phone Wednesday morning. He also attended the championship match Saturday.
Hesitant to address the matter at first, Missel did after a few minutes. He reiterated that at the time of the goal, a lot of stuff was going on.
“In my opinion, I saw kids who did not know what was transpiring at the time – on both sides,” Missel said.
Over the past couple of days, Missel said he and the Cheney coaching staff had started to become aware of the backlash over the goal. One athletic director from Pierce County even emailed Missel to lecture him about Cheney soccer coach Mark Kiver’s lack of attention to soccer rules and customs.
“I didn’t realize how much this was going to cause an issue,” Missel said. “I was totally surprised.”
As far as the goal-scorer himself – Weller – by all accounts, he is a model, upstanding leader and team captain. Missel said after the team bus pulled into town early Sunday, Weller volunteered to clean it out before it was transported back to the depot.
“He is a class-act kid,” Missel said.
Bottom line, Tyee wasn’t cheated out of a state title – who knows how this match would have played out if Weller’s goal was disallowed. But the team is right in feeling as if a piece of the sport’s integrity was seriously compromised at its expense.
As far as Cheney, today it still stands as 2A boys soccer champion. Is the crown tainted? Maybe – and even Kiver conceded as much, telling a reporter after the match an “asterisk” might go next to the end result. To label the Blackhawks as cheaters just isn’t fair. But in an era when the WIAA constantly preaches game sportsmanship – “Just Play Fair” – they just perhaps missed out on doing the right thing.